Texas Accordion Kings

The Saturday show at the Miller Outdoor Amphitheatre in Houston was a polkaholic's delight. as the Accordion, the National Instrument of Texas, was in its full glory. Only in Houston could Czechs, Tejanos, and Creoles gather together to sing in tongues other than English while playing music built around the accordion that makes people want to dance. no matter what culture they come from, and still be able to call all three styles indigenous--real folk music for the folks the music was originally intended.

But that's what happened Saturday at the 16th Texas Accordion Kings show at the Miller in Houston under the sponsorship of Texas Folklife Resources, for which I was master of ceremonies.

The Vrazels of Buckholts, Milam County, celebrating their 52d year in music, brought out the dance wax as they smoked the house behind Anton and Alfred Vrazel's dueling accordions pumping away in front of a swinging beat. Ed Poullard, an old school Creole accordionist and fiddler, led Les Amis Creole through a two-step back into the Chanky-Chank Wayback Machine, with Cedric Watson, a fiddler from Sealy barely old enough to legally drink, summoning the ghosts of the ancients as he blazed away like an old-timer, followed by Santiago Jimenez, Jr., paying homage to his father with a serious roots version of conjunto, then his older brother Flaco, the genre-bender responsible for taking conjunto around the world, backed by a cowboyed-up band of San Antonio twenty and thirtysomethings including son David on drums who seemed to be channelling Emilio when Flaco wasn't keeping them in line. Most telling was neither Flaco nor Santiago made any effort to communicate with one another much less play together on stage.

The performances were simple and perfunctory, requiring about ten minutes between sets. The dancing down in the band pit was superb, with many of the same couples who danced to the Vrazels sticking around to dance Cajun waltzes and Texas two steps to the Creoles, who were playing together for only the third time, Ed Poullard explained, and to the Jimenez conjuntos.

Alfred, who had told me before the show he's celebrating his 50th year as broadcast host of the Vrazel Polka Time from 12:15 to 2:15 on Sunday afternoons on KMIL 1330 AM in Cameron, compared notes backstage with Santiago, who will be playing the Accordion Festival in Munich, Germany, August 23. Both agreed Myron Floren from the Lawrence Welk Show, set a certain standard. I didn't beg to differ with them, but I'll take Vrazels and Jimenezes any day.

Roger Wood and James Fraher materialized backstage, and in between talking about their excellent Houston blues book and their upcoming Texas Zydeco project, they introduced me to JB James Adams who cohosts the Zydeco Et Pas Sale show on KPFT FM in Houston. Somewhere during the discussion, I was turned on to ZydecoEvents.com as a good source for zydeco shows in southeast Texas. There's more zydeco in Houston on the Saturday Night Catholic parish hall circuit than anywhere in the United States.

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